Chicago White Sox: What to Make of Anemic Offense
It's not often a starter can go seven innings, give up one hit and end up without a victory, but White Sox starter Jose Quintana felt that pain Friday.
Quintana bounced back in a big way from a mediocre first start to have one of the best starts of his young career. The 24-year-old stifled the Indians, striking out seven along the way with his only blemish being a Michael Brantley double.
Of course, that wasn't enough as the anemic and downright pathetic White Sox offense continued its struggles.
The Sox managed only two runners in scoring position, but it's hard to believe that would have mattered. The Sox are 29th in the MLB with runners in scoring position (.145/219/.306). The only team worse? The uber-disappointing Los Angeles Angels. Small victories, right?
The early season concerns about a team devoid of consistent hitters were not unfounded. This year's White Sox team simply makes far too many outs. Currently, they rank 28th in the league in team on-base percentage with a scary .280 figure. That's simply not going to cut it for a team that had hopes of a division crown.
A majority of the struggles lie with a few of the White Sox higher profile players. Designated hitter Adam Dunn continues to disappoint as his .162/.184/.351, 53 OPS+ start has a lot of fans hoping this isn't a repeat of Dunn's career-worst 2011 season.
Dunn's problems lie mostly with his inability to consistently draw walks anymore.
You can live with Dunn's 200 strikeouts when you're getting consistent walks and home runs. This year Dunn hasn't provided any of that value. Instead, he's shown a new-found ability to break away from his three-outcome (home run, strikeout or walk) past and into the realm of the groundout.
Dunn's strikeout percentage of 32.4 percent (via FanGraphs.com) is actually the lowest of his White Sox career, instead he's replaced those strikeouts with groundouts. Thus far, 20.59 percent of Dunn's at-bats have resulted in a groundout. That's a stunning number for a player like Dunn. To put it into perceptive, Dunn only grounded out 11 percent of the time in 2012 and 10.46 percent of the time during his miserable 2011 campaign.
A player like Dunn simply cannot ground out at the rate he does without providing consistent power and walks like he has in his past. There was some hope that Dunn had rediscovered some of his stroke last season, but it's beginning to look like last season was the outlier and 2011 is the new norm.
Free-agent acquisition Jeff Keppinger has been a super sub of sorts, filling in at numerous positions (3B, 1B, 2B) this season, but he's somehow forgot to hit along the way.
Keppinger had a career year last year, and while White Sox fans certainly didn't expect to see a .325/.367/.439 season from the 30-year-old, they expected better than the line (.154/.154/.154, -9 OPS+) they've received thus far.
Keppinger's problem appears to be a complete inability to drive the ball. Keppinger has never been a power hitter, but he was at least able to drive the ball to all fields. This year, Keppinger's only hits have come on dead pull hits to left field while his outs have either been weak groundouts or short fly balls.
Keppinger, like Dunn, seems to have also forgotten the benefit of drawing a walk considering he hasn't drawn one yet. His .188 BABIP seems to indicate he's been especially unlucky so far, but for those watching the games, it's not as if Keppinger's balls in play have been driven with any force.
He appears to be a player completely over-matched in the first few weeks of the season. This is especially concerning given his stellar spring training numbers.
There's a few White Sox that deserve some scorn, but I'll spare you the depression and cover just one more, left fielder Dayan Viciedo.
White Sox fans have waited a number of years for Viciedo's true breakout season and while his 97 OPS+ 2012 appeared to be a precursor to bigger and better things, the young outfielder has struggled mightly in 2013.
Never one to embrace the walk, Viciedo has completely abandoned it from his game (are you seeing a trend here?). Like Keppinger, Viciedo has yet to draw a walk in 23 plate appearances.
That's not Viciedo's game, so it's understandable, but if you aren't going to feign interest in drawing walks, the least you could do is not strike out at a career-high 39.1 percent. Viciedo should count his blessings 2013 has been the year of the strikeout so far as his nearly 40 percent K-rate is only ninth among MLB outfielders. Thanks, Rick Ankiel!
Whereas Keppinger has provided the White Sox some defensive value in the short year, Viciedo's mediocre defense and pathetic offensive showings has brought the younger to a negative wins above replacement (-0.8). A really disappointing figure for a player who many thought was ready to make the leap into a consistent, everyday player for the White Sox.
All in all, it hasn't been good for the White Sox offense this year. The good news? Gordon Beckham was hitting well. Naturally, he'll miss the next six to eight weeks after fracturing a bone in his wrist. Oh boy.
The year is still young, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a ton of positives in this early White Sox season. The team just does not preserve its outs like a successful major league team must. The pathetic on-base percentage and the resistance or inability to generate walks or hit consistently with runners in scoring positions are very troubling.
There's still a lot of time left in the season and they very well could turn it around, but I'm not holding my breath.
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